East to threaten West once more?

The Mayor of London has unveiled plans to transform the Thames Estuary into a hub for the creative and cultural industries, threatening to move a sector which is one of West London’s traditional strengths.

The proposal, produced in conjunction with the South East Local Enterprise Partnership spans seven London boroughs as well as the counties of Essex and Kent. It would aim to make the Thames Estuary a global centre of excellence for the creative industries.

The vision document, which has been submitted to Lord Heseltine, head of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission, identifies the potential for several large-scale national “hubs” including London’s largest film studio complex in Dagenham, a national theatre-making studios complex in Bexley, and Quartermaster Studios in Purfleet which would be an independent media production facility.

Although there are creative industry outposts in East London and the Thames Estuary,  and forecasts suggest economic activity in the sector will grow along with jobs over the next decade, the move would undoubtedly bring a threat to West London’s established dominance – with around a third of the sub-region’s jobs being in the sector.

West London’s creative sector is World leading, and key to the sub-region’s prosperity. Location plays a strong part in the decisions of employers to stay in a place, and West London’s ‘between Heathrow and the City’ positioning is a big benefit to the large corporations like Disney and BSkyB. But this advantage must be protected. The Mayor’s move is likely to produce a large talent pool further east. West London must not rest on its laurels.

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